Lance Armstrong Foundation sues Oklahoma pet collar company
Yellow Barkstrong and Purrstrong collars infringe on trademark, lawsuit says.
Friday, September 14, 2007
LiveStrong, but don't Barkstrong. Or Purrstrong.
At least not on yellow rubber collars.
The charitable foundation bearing cyclist Lance Armstrong's name has sued an Oklahoma man, alleging that his Animal Charity Collar Group Inc. makes dog and cat collars that too closely resemble the trademark LiveStrong yellow wristbands.
Since 2004, the foundation has sold more than 70 million of the wristbands for $1 each to raise money for cancer research and programs for survivors. The lawsuit claims that, for the Lance Armstrong Foundation, the wristbands are a "principal symbol of its extensive goodwill."
The pet collars, however, "are confusingly similar to, and are likely to cause confusion, mistake or deception" about their origin or affiliation with the Lance Armstrong Foundation, according to the petition filed Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Austin.
The lawsuit claims that Animal Charity Collar Group, a for-profit company, infringes on the foundation's trademarks when it uses the phrases Barkstrong and Purrstrong and features a yellow band.
The foundation wants Animal Charity Collar Group to stop using the phrases, the yellow bands and the Web site barkstrong.net. The lawsuit also seeks to have Animal Charity Collar Group's Purrstrong trademark canceled and the pending application for the Barkstrong trademark canceled, in addition to unspecified monetary damages.
"Naturally, (the Lance Armstrong Foundation) wants to protect its trademarks and prevent them from being diluted," said John Guaragna, a lawyer representing the foundation. "This type of suit is a routine legal matter undertaken by countless organizations who rightly wish to protect their trademarks and intellectual property."
But Chris Ohman, CEO of Animal Charity Collar Group and a defendant in the lawsuit, said that the collars were the company's idea and that the Lance Armstrong Foundation declined to partner on the project when it was launched in 2006 because it was not related to cancer research.
"They were not willing to do anything in the pet industry," Ohman said.
The company based in Tulsa, Okla., manufactures the collars for animal rescue groups, such as the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, to sell. It also sells them at barkstrong.net for $4.99.
He said the collars come in four colors — dayglow white, yellow-green, pink and blaze orange — have paw prints embedded on either side of the phrase and glow in the dark. They used to make a flea-and-tick prevention collar, too, but that was too costly for the small company, he said.
"It is not something that could be confused with a bracelet or any other product they have," Ohman said.